Abstract: The Fullback Is a Lady: Sports, Gender, and Post-War Welfare Capitalism

Karen Ward Mahar and Tara Keough


In this paper we argue that, because female athletic success implies masculinity, high-achieving female athletes in corporate sports challenged the status quo by throwing women's abilities and limitations into question. However, using General Electric as an example, we suggest that corporations successfully contained any threat posed by the female athlete through demeaning coverage of women's sports and through the planning of events meant to reinforce gender ideals for women, from rolling pin games to field day beauty contests. We also suggest that the same mechanisms used to contain the threat of female athleticism were part of a larger corporate culture that contained the threat of high-achieving women in the workplace, such as GE's female scientists and engineers.